3 Ways To Protect Yourself From Getting Digitally Cancelled By Google
A random fraud detection filter is all that may stand between you and being able to access your digital life through Google services. How can you avoid being caught off guard?
This week I learned a very valuable lesson about entrusting your data to cloud computing providers: you don’t own data if you give it to somebody else and you should always expect the very worst from any third parties upon whom you rely for … anything (yes, it’s a great recipe for cynics).
It’s now been more than 48 hours since I was last able to fully access my Google account and everything it contains, which was an unusual surprise to end my vacation with.
The damage from this even slight interruption to the online world as I knew it has been surprisingly far-reaching. A browser cache on my computer is all that currently stands between me and not being able to post here on Medium. I’m currently attending critical Zoom meetings with clients by forwarding calendar invites from the only device that still has access to my account — an Android phone — over to my business email.
Despite what feel like endless phone calls and chat interactions, I’ve received no explanation from Google as to why my account was locked down and no definite timeline for its recovery. I can’t speak to the team supposedly looking at restoring my access despite having followed their verification procedures down to a ‘t’. It may seem extreme, but it could happen to you too.
What’s The Worst That Could Happen If You Got Locked Out Of Your Google Account?
Relying on the cloud for everything seems great. Until it unexpectedly turns on you and you can’t legally leave your…
This experience has provided a useful learning opportunity for me to assess how the damage of this unexpected lockout (probably triggered by accessing my Google account from one too many IPs) could have been mitigated if not avoided. Here are some early thoughts.
Avoid Being Overly Reliant Upon Google For Everything In Your Digital Life
Whatever the outcome of this process, I know one thing for sure: I’ll be taking active steps to “de-Google” my life by diversifying the service providers I use for key things like email and connectivity or doing something I did years ago and managing them myself (ownCloud et al).
If you’re looking for like-minded folk to turn to for advice about how to actually pull this off, then check out /r/privacy — a subreddit for those interested in minimizing the privacy-invasive nature of what they get up to online.
de-google - privacy
If you want to help out with the project, here are some ideas (submit Issues & Pull Requests on the GitHub page): iOS…
The subreddit has some thorough de-Googling documentation nicely laid out in its wiki. I’l be digging through it over the coming weeks.
If You Make Money From YouTube, Make Sure That You’re Not The Only Brand Manager On The Account
Six months ago or so, I got into YouTube-ing.
I run a channel for fun rather than as an economic enterprise. But what’s not so fun is the knowledge that access to it can now be taken away from me at a moment’s notice if anything were to happen to my account.
That sole Android device currently (conveniently) experiencing some battery issues? It’s the only conduit I currently have to that YouTube channel. And while my subscriber count isn’t yet north of 200, I resent not being able to see and respond to the latest comments left by subscribers in a convenient manner. (I also resent not being able to easily access my vacation photos which are currently only accessible through Google Photos).
How can you avoid this general suck-iness?
Firstly, I think it’s a great way to bring the point home that relying upon a SaaS provider as your sole monetization stream is a very bad idea from a strategic standpoint.
If YouTube is your sole source of income, then you should think about the fact that Google can arbitrarily strip you of the ability to run your business by locking you out of your Google account — and that includes YouTube. Smart? Not particularly.
Secondly it makes a good case for why you should always have backups in place for just about any online eventuality. I maintain a separate YouTube account for my marketing consulting business. Had I had the foresight to provide that account with management privileges over my personal account, some of the adverse impact of this could have been avoided.
Expect That Something Like This Could Happen — And At The Worst Possible Moment
There are many other little things you can do to make sure that any trigger-happy Google account security filter doesn’t derail your business and life.
For instance you could:
- Ensure that if you’re a one person Google Workspaces organization, like me, that you have a separate account to serve as a super admin — even if it’s just yourself accessing it. If something goes wrong with your account, keep your data — your day to day usage account — and your admin account separate.
But I think it’s better to summarize this as: “expect the unexpected and that any cloud provider to whom you entrust your data could arbitrarily suspend your account.”
As a backup advocate, this is an easy point for me to make. Where I slipped up? I thought that Google was better than this and had more reliable customer support than it does.
Some specific pointers here:
- If you’re going to entrust your organization’s email to a SaaS platform like Gmail, take periodic backups to ensure that if that data trove is locked down you can quickly import to a backup system.
- Don’t do what I routinely did and upload all your photos to the cloud while deleting them on your local devices to conserve space. If your cloud photo hosting service becomes inaccessible to you, so will all your precious photos and memories.
- Don’t assume that just because a tech provider is widely used that it’s inherently more reliable than one that you’ve barely heard about. Before deciding to commit large troves of data or mission-critical businesses services to it, do some critical investigating. What do prior users have to say about its customer support resources? Are there any people like me making noise who have tried to raise warnings about restrictive lockdown practices?